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Bank of Ideas offers UBS £5 for continued use of its building; ‘Save Our Shelter’ exhibition; pensioners support

 
  • The Bank of Ideas prepares to return to the High Court on Monday 19 December having been granted an appeal to get UBS’ injunction discharged
  • Launches ‘Save Our Shelter’ Exhibition
  • Occupy London announces news about UBS’s claims that the current rateable value of the Bank of ideas building is just 5 pounds
  • ‘Shared Appreciation Mortgage’ Pensioners show support for public repossession

Save Our Shelter exhibition

Newly opened arts and community centre, the Bank of Ideas at 19-21 Sun Street, in the borough of Hackney just on the border with the City of London, today opened an extensive mixed media exhibition – Save Our Shelter – which focuses on the history of squatting, giving the inside story and countering much of the recent media representation. [1] [2]

The Save Our Shelter exhibition is an important intervention in a critical political debate that has seen the government ignoring responses to its own consultation – ‘Options for Dealing with Squatters’ – where 96% of responses from across society argued against taking any action on squatting. [3]

Supporter of the Bank of Ideas, Philip Hill, commented: “There is important dialogue and discussion taking place daily at Bank of Ideas about the type of society we want to create. Our new Save Our Shelter exhibition is very much part of this dialogue – each extra day we’re given to raise awareness of how our communities are being destabilised is a victory.”

The Government has since voted through an amendment to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill, to make squatting in residential buildings a criminal offence, with up to 51 weeks imprisonment. The House of Lords is due to discuss this shortly. The proposed change in law has been opposed by Law Society, judges and police. [4]

Jenny Mathews, spokesperson from Squash (Squatters’ Action for Secure Homes), said: “The ciminalisation of squatting is the criminalisation of homeless people, in the midst of one of the worst housing crises this country has ever faced. The government has bypassed democracy to rush through unnecessary and unaffordable laws, while the real criminals, like UBS, are allowed to continue their daylight robbery, keeping a £55 million building empty.”

Phillip added: “When there are more than one million empty homes across the UK, of which 350,000 have been empty long term, it is staggering that this government is attempting to push through legislation that will criminalise homeless people. This is made even worse when it is taken into account that there are currently more than 2 million families in need of a home.” [5] [6]

Bank of Ideas offers UBS their stated rateable value of £5 for continued use of the Bank of Ideas building; pensioners support the initiative

At the launch of the Bank of Ideas Save Our Shelter exhibition, Occupy London representatives were also present to make a statement on a UBS’ recent tax application, which was made on the same day that Bank of Ideas was taken over in an act of ‘public repossession’, to turn it into an arts and community space for the public.

On Monday, Occupy London was pleased to hear George Magnus, UBS Senior Economic Adviser, express notable warmth towards the Occupy movement and its aims on the BBC’s Newsnight. [7] In return, Occupy London would like to take this opportunity to make an open, warm hearted offer to UBS – we want you to help us to begin to build the Big Society.

Bank of Ideas has renovated this derelict building, without state intervention and through volunteering and skill sharing. Since it was publicly repossessed, Bank of Ideas, located in one of the boroughs worst hit by the summer’s social unrest, has been used as a community centre where many local organisations affected by the cuts have a place in which to continue their vital work.

UBS has been accused of many unsavory practices in its time. Now, Occupy London and Bank of Ideas are publicly asking them to work with us to wipe the slate clean – to enable community organisers to permanently manage this site on behalf of the people of Hackney – the border of which is but one pavement’s distance from some of the wealthiest companies on earth.

In light of that offer Occupy London should first raise the following issue, so as to clear the air between all parties. In the last few days Occupy London has received some interesting news concerning the UBS office complex that now houses Hackney’s Bank of Ideas. Occupy London understands that there has been a recent application to the tax office, which asks for a substantial re-rating of this vast commercial property. 

Occupy London further understands that this application was submitted by a well known global real estate services company on behalf of a wholly owned subsidiary of UBS called Sun Street Properties, whose directors bear a striking resemblance to the UK division of UBS themselves.

Occupy London provides our fullest understanding of this application below. [8] There are a number of important things to say about it.

Firstly, to our surprise UBS have stated that the Bank of Ideas building is empty. It certainly wasn’t the last time we looked! More than 30 community groups have been using it since it opened recently.

Even more surprising is their claim that the rateable value of the property has fallen from around £100,000 to just £1 per floor – or a total of £5 in all. It is an extraordinary claim that a building on such a prime site in London has such a low value, even if it is due for redevelopment. You can’t even buy a travel card for £5 these days – thanks Boris! 

Occupy London thinks UBS now needs to answer some questions on the submission they have made.

1: Why have they claimed the building is empty when that is not the case?

2: How have they come up with such an extraordinary value for the building?

3: How much in business rates will they save if the valuation is agreed?

4: Who assisted them in preparing this valuation and are they willing to disclose their valuation documentation in support of their claim?

5: Has this claim been agreed by H M Revenue & Customs on behalf of Hackney Council? If so, why?

Occupy London believes these are serious questions which require some serious answers in return.

Occupy London and the Bank of Ideas offer to pay rates for the building

In the meantime, today representatives from Occupy London and Bank of Ideas went to UBS’ office, just on the opposite side of the road to the Bank of Ideas – to offer UBS the sum of five pounds – the sum they claim represents the rateable value of this building – to start a partnership with them which will enable the civic institutions of Hackney to carry on their vital work here – in a community centre run by the people, for the people.

Thanks to @heardinlondon for the photo. Please credit if you use.

UBS declined to meet with the representatives, preferring instead to lock down the doors and call three police vans. However the Bank of Ideas left their details so that UBS could get in contact when it is happy to engage in dialogue.

‘Shared Appreciation Mortgage’ Pensioners support public repossession

During the 90s, UBS was heavily involved in the “shared appreciation mortgage” scheme that left many British pensioners in dire financial straits once the housing bubble took hold.

Unlike other banks, UBS refused to provide any kind of rescue scheme to aid those pensioners affected. [9]

Many of those affected most badly have been prevented by the courts from telling their story. OccupyLondonhas been contacted by several of those pensioners who have provided us with the following statements on an anonymous basis.  OccupyLondonis profoundly grateful to them for their support for the Bank of Ideas and for their bravery in speaking out:

First testimony

“My life has been blighted by the ‘Shared Appreciation Mortgage’ scheme funded by the Swiss investment bank UBS. I can’t move house as a result of this aggressively marketed product because I would lose so much money. UBS have left me and many others totally helpless.

“I thank the Bank of Ideas for publicly repossessing the UBS office block left empty for many years which now houses their community centre. After trying everything, I am thankful that the Occupy London movement is now fighting on my behalf – alongside the Bank of Ideas – and for the thousands of British pensioners whose lives were ruined by these  schemes.

“When the Bank of Ideas contacted me and asked if they could repossess the property on my behalf I was more than happy to agree.  I consider that together we have a legal claim to the building until such time as UBS launch an appopriate rescue package for all the people  affected by this scheme in theUK. When I saw in the Guardian newspaper that UBS had attempted to circumvent due legal process to obtain a possession order for the buildings  – and did so late at night in a telephone hearing – I was shocked but not surprised.”

Second testimony

“As a public reposessor I believe that I have a greater title to these buildings than UBS and hereby politely request a court-hearing under civil procedure in order to prove this greater title. On behalf of the Bank of Ideas I once more call for the injunction issued by Mrs Justice Proudman on November the 18th to be set aside. In addition, if I were provided with a legal guarantee of anonymity I would make an official statement to the court as soon as  possible to prove this title.”

Notes

[1] The Bank of Ideas complex is owned by Sun Street Properties Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of UBS. The property includes 5-29 Sun Street, 5-17 Crown Place, 8-16 Earl Streetand 54 Wilson Street. See http://dl.dropbox.com/u/136370/bankofideas/ubs-purchase.PDFhttp://dl.dropbox.com/u/136370/bankofideas/ubs-purchase.PDFhttp://dl.dropbox.com/u/136370/bankofideas/shoreditch-ubs.PDFhttp://dl.dropbox.com/u/136370/bankofideas/planning-app.pdfhttp://dl.dropbox.com/u/136370/bankofideas/os-map.pdf and http://dl.dropbox.com/u/136370/bankofideas/land-reg.pdf

[2] www.bankofideas.org.uk

[3] All still to play for - http://www.squashcampaign.org/2011/12/all-still-to-play-for/

[4] Media and politicians are misleading about law on squatters - http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2011/sep/25/squatting-law-media-politicians

[5] Channel 4′s The Great British Property Scandal - http://www.channel4.com/programmes/the-great-british-property-scandal/articles/home/

[6] More information at squashcampaign.org / squattershousingactiongroup.wordpress.com

[7] George Magnus, speaking on BBC’s Newsnight Monday 12 December:

“I  think that the protests resonate with people because they strike at  questions that we are all asking, which is really about where do the  rights and responsibilities of citizens and the state… how are they changing?

“This [crisis] may go on for a decade, it may go on for longer, it’s very  very difficult to tell. But I think when that sinks into people’s  consciousnesses, that actually things seem relatively hopeless and we  don’t have solutions, I think that people start to look for different  kinds of answers and that may include rebalancing our ideas about  markets versus the state.”

[8] OccupyLondon’s best understanding of the application is given below. NB. The documents referred to in this story are not in the possession of Occupy London or the Bank of Ideas.

JONES LANG LASALLE

Proposal to alter the 2010 Rating List

PART A – DETAILS OF THE PROPERTY/RATING ASSESSMENT

1 Address of the property to which the proposal relates

(exc 3rd Flr Ft Rt & Rr 29) 3rd Flr 17-29

Sun Street

LondonEC2M 2PS

2 Description of  the property to which the proposal relates

Offices and Premises

3 Name of the occupier

Unoccupied

4 Address of the occupier ( if different to 1 )

5 Rateable value

105,000

6 Effective date

1/04/2010

7 Is the property owner/occupied. If NOT then state the name of owner

Sun Street properties Limited

8 Owners address

9 Is there rent or fees payable? No

10 Billing Authority

Hackney London Borough

11 Reference Number

4293007

PART B -  DETAILS OF THE PROPOSED LIST ALTERATION

13 I propose that the Rating List entry shown for the above property should be altered as follows

A The rateable value altered to 1 pound with effect from 18/11/2011

PART C – GROUNDS FOR THE PROPOSED ALTERATION

15 I have reason to believe that the rating list is inaccurate and that the alteration proposed in PART B of this form should be made because

D  the circumstances affecting the rateable value of the property changed on 18/11/2011

16 My detailed reasons for believing the rating list is inaccurate are

“there has been a material change of circumstances because of vandalism and damage in the hereditament caused by protestors gaining illegal entry in the hereditament on 18th November 2011.

We believe this change occurred on 18th Novemeber 2011 and reduces the ratable Value of the hereditament to 1 pound.”

PART D -  DETAILS OF THE PERSON COMPLETING THIS PROPOSAL

17 Capacity in which this proposal is made

Agent for Owner (Sun Street Properties Ltd)

19 Signed

Jones Lang LaSalle limited

Dated 28/11/2011

20 Address for correspondence

Jones Lang LaSalle Limited

22 Hanover Square

London

W1S 1JA

21 Tel no 020 7493 6040

22 Fax no 020 7399 5646

23 Email rating@eu.jll.com

24 Our ref 171650

[9] Telegraph – Shared appreciation mortgages: ‘cheap money’ backfires on borrowers - http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/personalfinance/borrowing/mortgages/5329469/Shared-appreciation-mortgages-cheap-money-backfires-on-borrowers.html

 
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